Tag Archives: Little Battles

2012 Albums of the Year: Part Two #10 – #6

14 Dec

2012 Albums of the Year 10 to 6

Here we are again, on an album countdown extravaganza. It’s part two of our three-part look at our 15 favourite albums of the year. Today we will be revealing who took the number 10 – 6 spots (numbers 15 – 11 are here).

As we mentioned before, this is a list of favourites and reflects our somewhat eclectic tastes only. No science or voting was used to determine the order, just simple listening and enjoying.

Let’s crack on with numbers 10 – 6.

10. Conveyor – Conveyor

Conveyor

It’s clear thatConveyor love sound and they love to take and manipulate it; bending, shaping and twisting it until it feels just right. On first listen of their eponymous debut album it may appear that some are quickly discarded so they may play with another, veering off on a sonic tangent heading for who knows where. Listen again and you’ll not only wonder how they could have gone anywhere else, but you’ll hear the bubbling undercurrent of that which they left behind, echoing through the hills and valleys of this new soundscape. On Conveyor, sound begets sound. This is not a difficult album to enjoy; loving it is easy to do. Choruses are as catchy as a childhood virus and just as difficult to shake; “Short Hair” in particular is immune to vaccination and will live within your head for weeks. As will “Mom Talk”; we never thought we would be singing along with lyrics like “Hey Mom,/Hey Mom/Hey Mom/Hey Mom/Hey Mom/Hey Mom/What do you want to talk about today?” but we do each and every time the album is on. Conveyor is an album full of intricate and complex sounds that feel so simple and inviting, playful yet intense.


Buy it from: Conveyor

9. She Makes War – Little Battles

Little Battles

On her second album, Little Battles (and technically her second album on this list after her appearance as part of The Penelopes) Laura Kidd, aka She Makes War deals with the struggles and turmoils faced across life’s turbulent journey. Her beguiling, almost choral vocals are often looped to create light harmonies that sit atop layers and layers of sound. Her dark around the edges pop music is complemented with smooth, almost a cappella ballads which nestle amongst the solemn and the upbeat. Warm melodic harp sounds give way to cold and forceful staccato drum beats. Tonally the record flits from steel like assurance to crystal fragility, raw and edgy to tender and soft. It is an album we have come back to time and time again this year and one that never fails to capture and entice us.


Buy it from: She Makes War

8. 2:54 – 2:54

2.54

It has to be said, nostalgia has played a pretty big part in our adulation for the debut album by 2:54. The two Thurlow sisters, Hannah and Colette, have managed to reach deep inside us and flick the switch marked ‘early teens, getting properly excited by music for the first time’. Growing up in the early nineties with indie in the middle of a peak period makes us instantly predisposed to loving an album that is full of reminisces, not least Collette’s Toni Halliday-esque vocals that swoop over the dark and stormy guitar lines. That is not to say that nostalgia is the only reason we love the album, not at all. It’s just a great record, full of songs that swell into darkness and break into light, though mostly it’s about the dark. The neo-gothic sound that is growing in popularity is given additional beauty here by the sense of space and serenity contained within. It would be worthy of a place on our end of year list even if it didn’t remind us of our youth, but it does so it gets to go even higher.


Buy it from: iTunes

7. Toy – Toy

toy

Toy is an album that quickens the heart with excitement. The psychedelic proggy guitars are all hazy wavy wonderful, lifting you up on a swirling mass of krautrock indie. It’s a kaleidoscope of sound that cascades into your ears from all angles. The seven minutes-plus “Dead and Gone” is a prime example of how the sound builds and drops, swirls, spins, discombobulates and puts you back together again. Evidently Toy recorded their self-titled debut in a studio besieged with smoke machines and lasers to recreate the magic of their live shows, perhaps more bands should do the same if the results are always as exciting as this.


Buy it from: Toy

6. Roman Ruins – Homebuilding

roman ruins

If someone had told you that the guy who drums for Beach House on tour would release an album of his own, that it would be brilliant and even better than the Beach House album released that same year, you would probably have told them to get some sleep as they were obviously overworked and talking crazy. That is exactly what has happened though with Graham Hill’s (aka Roman Ruins) debut album, Homebuilding. It was largely written while Hill was on tour with his pregnant girlfriend left behind and the result is an album of rare beauty about growing a family and home. Delicate ambient sounds blend into soft 80s electro beats while the vocals gently rock you as if a babe in arms. More than any other, Homebuilding is designed to be experienced as an album in its entirety rather than as a collection of tracks. The narrative thread is woven throughout and the vinyl (which is stunning) has even been cut with no gaps so you can listen to it as one continuous piece of music. It is simply gorgeous.


Buy it from: Roman Ruins

We’ve hit number 6 in our countdown, come back tomorrow to find out which albums made it into our Top 5.

Winning The Battle: She Makes War Interview

20 Jul

We all know that Celebrity culture is everywhere these days. Being famous is seen as a legitimate career choice by many who are no longer hindered by the need for some kind of talent to be seen as special by the masses. Society’s obsession with fame and the celebrities, from A-list right through to Double-Z list, has engendered a sense of entitlement amongst a large proportion of the adored. From full on diva demands, vast entourages and crazy rider requests from the uber-stars, to the age-old ‘don’t you know who I am?’ from anyone who has ever been on TV for whatever reason, reality often appears to be something our idols are detached from. Perspective, modesty and humility can be no more than words in a dictionary to some so it is refreshing when you meet someone whose feet are firmly planted on the ground, who appreciates what they have and the people around them, who works hard to achieve their ambitions and who has an opinion, rather than press-speak learnt by rote.

Laura Kidd is one such person, exceptionally easy to talk and warm to; she is very down to earth and open. Relaxed and chatty, she engages enthusiastically on all subjects of discussion and offers reasoned and articulate opinions in response. Like her approach to her life as a musician, she is pragmatic and considered, willing to listen to others and take on board what they say. Respect is given where it is due and deservedly asked for in return and she can be quite forthright about where she feels it is lacking. Like her singing voice which exudes both fragility and strength, she gives glimpses to both vulnerability and vigour.

Performing now as She Makes War Kidd had previously travelled the world as a professional bassist, playing to thousands of people as part of a live band for numerous artists. While many could have been swept away by it all, Kidd saw it for what it was; a job that would pay the rent and put her on the road to becoming a performer in her own right. Already writing her own music, she took time to learn from the experience and used it to help her move forward as an artist and musician. “They weren’t there to see me but that doesn’t matter”, she explains when we meet. “It doesn’t matter at all, it [was] just such a brilliant experience, learning so much really from the people I was playing for”.

“I don’t necessarily feel that my music owes me a living …….I don’t think you get one chance or one opportunity with your music”

Breaking out, going her own way if you like, was always the plan but it was to be done on merit. There was no consideration of using the artists she had performed with as a stepping stone or launch pad for her own career. As she approached the planned launch of her debut album as She Makes War, Disarm, she was working as a session musician with an established artist and considered pushing back its release. ”I didn’t want it to look like I was piggy-backing on them” she admits.

With her second album, Little Battles, released to the world and acclaimed by critics and fans on both sides of the Atlantic, she is unquestionably an established artist in her own right, yet her pragmatism remains. As does her passion for other media and work. She Makes War might be gaining Laura recognition and support from across the globe but it is not the only string to her bow or way of making money. ”What I do for work is mainly I’m a camera person, an editor and an events photographer and I do lots of social media stuff, lectures and things which all of which I love”.

Her expectations and wishes are modest and reasonable, ”I definitely wanna engineer it much more so that She Makes War’s the main thing or at least the musical output is the main thing and then everything else just supports it”. She aspires to have her music make up three-quarters of her income, and that’s income she needs to live, not three-quarters of a multi-million pound salary with endorsements and the like making up the remainder. That sense of entitlement that we mentioned exists within so many young artists these days is nowhere to be found.

“I don’t necessarily feel that my music owes me a living. I think I can make some money or at least I can cover my costs and that’s really what I wanna aim to do. I don’t think you get one chance or one opportunity with your music, I wanna be a career artist so I wanna keep releasing albums. One a year, one every two years, ‘till I’m an old lady and as long as I’ve got stuff to say”.

”People either love that term or they hate it but I don’t care cause I like it, I think it really describes what I do cause it’s not happy, shiny, lovey-dovey pop music”

Playing to less than the hordes she got used to on the road with others is not a cause for frustration or disappointment either. On the contrary, she gets genuinely excited by the crowds she can pull in, because it is she they have come to see. Her album launch show in an area of London not easily accessible by public transport exceeded her expectations, and she was blown away by the turnout, explaining that she thought it would take another year to draw that sort of crowd. Kidd understands it can be a slow journey to build a solid and sustained fan-base, ”if I can retain my current fan base and grow that over time then that’s wonderful”, especially on your own with only the money you personally make (or that you can raise via the likes of PledgeMusic) to put into it; it’s not something that fazes her.

”I don’t have any funding other than money I make myself through my work and not many musicians like saying that, they’d rather pretend that they’ve got loads of backing and everyone thinks they’re the best thing ever and I’m just a lot more realistic in that, I’m not shy to say ‘I’m not a well off person’, it is very sort of self made in that way”.

Her music suits her business model. It’s not something that is reliant on trends or that fits the current slash and burn mainstream model of music being a disposable commodity. She doesn’t make shiny pop, the kind where 90% of tracks appear on a perpetually rolling conveyor-belt and disappear off the end within a week. She makes ‘Gloom Pop’, a term we were previously not familiar with that Kidd herself coined to describe her sound. ”People either love that term or they hate it but I don’t care cause I like it, I think it really describes what I do cause it’s not happy, shiny, lovey-dovey pop music but it’s not not pop music either, it’s obviously pop music. I used to call it grungy pop music and then people got a bit too confused and started calling me grunge which is not appropriate in 2012 so I just call it gloom pop”.

It’s not a term we hate, but is certainly one we didn’t get to start with and one from which we drew some poor connotations. We expected her music to be much more morose and self-indulgent, bordering on emo. While it is introspective at times, it certainly doesn’t wallow in any way. We put this to her and she is receptive and considered. Our view, however misguided, is not dismissed and we are made to feel as if we have something to contribute, as well as being some more background on her thought process. ”For me gloom pop just implies genuine meaningful, heartfelt, but not happy”. It makes perfect sense when you say it like that.

“Bloggers are doing so much of a better job, spending much more time listening and really relating to it, and even if they don’t like it you can hear that they’ve heard it”

She is not as forgiving though about what she sees as a lack of respect, or even courtesy, from certain areas of the press. She is quick to point out that any criticism is valid and that she is not affected by poor reviews and she has been so open and honest that there is no reason to doubt her.

”My belief in my own music is not changed by someone’s bad opinion or someone’s good opinion. If someone says I’m amazing, I still feel the same about my music, if someone says I’m the worst shit they’ve ever heard, I still feel the same”. Her disappointment is when pieces are factually inaccurate or just lazily written or researched. Print articles in major publications that called Little Battles her debut album for example when the press release clearly identified it as her second, or another that read like the album hadn’t even been listened to as it completely misrepresented her sound.

”I can’t prescribe what people write about me and I don’t want to but that has pissed me off a little bit, especially when bloggers are doing so much of a better job, spending much more time listening and really relating to it, and even if they don’t like it you can hear that they’ve heard it”.

That’s not to say bloggers get off scot-free. The race to be first that so many us engage in is not a pastime Kidd is really a fan of. Album reviews going live within an hour of the record being made available to the press for example are particularly disrespectful. You can’t adequately comment on an album if you have barely had time to hear it, and it isn’t fair on the artist if you try to. An artist will work and craft and agonise over sounds, sometimes for years, and she feels (and we agree) that it is only a common courtesy to actually listen to an album a few times before you publish anything on it. The artist takes pride in their work and it sometimes feels, as we rush to post content and hopefully draw in readers before others, that the same cannot be said for the critic.

”I love the internet and I love digital publishing and I love digital photography and digital video and all this stuff but I’m still very conscious of the fact that you can put out untold amounts of shite on the Internet and clog it up. I’m quite careful about that. I don’t wanna put stuff out that’s just rubbish, whether it’s a blog post or even really a Tweet”.

It is that consideration, pragmatism and genuine goodness that helps set Kidd apart from other aspiring artists. She is quite prepared to graft to get where she wants, but she isn’t going to dump all over others to get there, nor does she expect it all just be handed on her. She may achieve her aspiration, she may not, but with her determination and realistic expectations, we fully expect to be hearing a lot more of Laura Kidd over the years. That her music is lovely will no doubt help a lot as well.

Read More
In Session… She Makes War – “Minefields” / In Session… She Makes War – “Exit Strategy” / Album Review: She Makes War – Little Battles / Watch: She Makes War – “Exit Strategy” / She Makes War Website

In Session… She Makes War – “Exit Strategy”

31 May

Last week we posted the first part of our beautiful session with She Makes War, recorded when she was in town for a show. Now we are pleased to share part two with you which not only features another fabulous acoustic rendition of a track from her latest album, Little Battles but a lesson for us here at Alphabet Bands. That being, if someone walks in halfway through a session, don’t just check for road noise after his arrival, check to see if he makes a noise himself and if he actually enters the blummin shot! We like to think it adds to the charm of the session.

Ahem.

This is She Makes War performing the excellent “Exit Strategy” and featuring a special guest appearance from some dude’s arm. Enjoy.

Read More
In Session… She Makes War – “Minefields”
Album Review: She Makes War – Little Battles
Watch: She Makes War – “Exit Strategy”
She Makes War Website

In Session… She Makes War – “Minefields”

24 May

The really rather lovely and extremely talented She Makes War was in town recently for a show and we were lucky enough to catch up with her for an exclusive acoustic session and interview in the afternoon (which you’ll be able to read soon).

We’ve been planning on filming sessions for a while now but wanted to make sure the first one was something a bit special. We think you’ll agree that this stripped back version of her next single, “Minefields” is exactly that. The album version, on Little Battles was pretty darn good but this is just gorgeous and we have fallen more than a little bit in love with it. We hope you do too.

Read More
Album Review: She Makes War – Little Battles
Watch: She Makes War – “Exit Strategy”
She Makes War Website

Album Review: She Makes War – Little Battles

19 Apr

On occasion, tags and labels attach themselves to artists that don’t really do them justice. One such label is ‘Gloom Pop’, which to the uninitiated has connotations of morose, despondent music that self-harms. It has attached itself to She Makes War; the solo project of the multi-faceted Laura Kidd, yet her music transcends such simplistic nomenclature.

Having performed all around the world with disparate artists such as Tricky, A-Ha, I Blame Coco, The Young Punx and Alex Parks, the styles and experiences that Kidd can draw on are legion and their influence are in evidence throughout her second full length album, Little Battles. Smooth, almost a cappella ballads, nestle amongst both the solemn and the upbeat; warm melodic harp sounds give way to cold and forceful staccato drum beats. Tonally the record flits from steel like assurance to crystal fragility, raw and edgy to tender and soft.

Her beguiling, almost choral vocals are often looped to create light harmonies that sit atop layers and layers of sound. These in turn are complimented by found recordings of the world. A Japanese mountaintop tannoy, rain in South London, and helicopters circling above are just a few additions to the already rich tapestry on offer.

The Little Battles of the album’s narrative are largely internal, the struggles and turmoils faced across life’s turbulent journey. It would be easy to play this out in a contrived and hackneyed fashion but Kidd handles them all with a delicacy and respect one would expect from such a disarming performer.

Little Battles is out now on My Big Sister Recordings and is available in a number of different packages from the She Makes War bandcamp page

Read More
Watch: She Makes War – “Exit Strategy”

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